The Akan of Ghana name their children after days of the week, birth order, and sometimes notable facts about their birth. Kofi Atta Annan, for example, was a twin born on a Friday. But nobody wants to be called Obím̀pέ.
Before television, people had to make their own fun. So they trained pigs to read.
In a 1939 short film, Porky Pig swears in the funniest way possible. It was not seen by the public until the 1970s.
In 2017, because of a missing comma, a Maine company had to pay out five million dollars in a legal settlement.
Around the world today, several languages have just one native speaker left. When they die, their language dies with them.
Flother is another word for a snowflake. It appears only once, in a 1275 CE book. The poison that killed Hamlet’s father in Shakespeare’s play, hebenon, is mentioned nowhere else. These are the hapax legomena, the lonely words.
I say, after brekkers do you want to see if Tollers from the Bodder wants to play some rugger or soccer for eccer? This “er” slang abbreviation came from Oxford University, where it has been in use since the 19th century.
There’s no word in English that rhymes with “orange.” Everyone knows this. But what rhymes with “problem,” “depth,” “wolf,” “elbow,” or “with”?
Batman lives in Gotham City. Where did the name come from? Its history follows a circuitous route via the 19th century equivalent of Mad magazine, smart idiots who hated public infrastructure, goats, and Robin Hood’s King John.
“That that is is that that is not is not is that it it is” – add punctuation, and this sentence transforms from babble to sense. But, depending on which punctuation you add, it can make four different sentences.
In 1992, an earnest New York Times reporter asked Megan Jasper, a former receptionist for Sub-Pop Records, for slang used by the nascent grunge scene. There was no such slang… so she made it up. And they printed it.
Why does “One nice little old round yellow brick house” sound fine, but “one brick nice round yellow old little house” sound weird? Welcome to the hidden rules of English.
The Aboriginal languages of southeast Australia have an ingenious counting system – there’s a physical mnemonic built directly into the language.
In 1971, Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau apparently swore under his breath during a parliamentary session. He later referred to it as “fuddle duddle” – and so a minor scandal and a major pop culture phrase were born.
Ever thought of the perfect comeback, but thought of it way too late? Then you’ve got a case of staircase wit.